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Enhancing Fire Scene Investigations Through New Technologies

NCJ Number
Fire and Arson Investigator Dated: Winter 2021 Pages: 28-35
Date Published
8 pages

The application and limitations of field portable Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) to fire investigations was the focus of this project.


Today's field portable GC/MS systems were found to provide lab-quality data for volatile hydrocarbons but the interpretation of that data proved challenging for field operators. On-line access to lab experts is essential. Scene investigators felt that data generated at the fire scene is useful, especially for public agencies that often must wait months before receiving lab results. Scene sampling using SPME has proven problematic due to the over-saturation of the sensitive SPME fibers and their rapid loss of adsorbed compounds. Sampling at ambient temperatures limits the range of identifiable products. Evidence sampling is enhanced with the use of sensitive PIDs (photoionization detectors) as a supplement to canine searches. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2021